NITI Aayog –The new Avatar of Planning Commission


Planning Commission, the legacy of Nehruvian era, was dismantled and replaced with new Body called National Institution for Transforming India aka NITI Aayog on 1st January, 2015.

On reading headlines -‘ planning commission has been replaced by NITI Aayog’, Readers thought that it’s “Policy Commission” but, devil lies in details, it’s not Policy Commission rather ‘National Institution for Transforming India’.

I have tried to analyse the various aspect related to this development in question and answer format. Hopefully some of queries would be resolved after going through this.

What was mandate of planning commission?

The Planning Commission was set up on the 15th of March, 1950 through a Cabinet Resolution. Its mandate was to conduct a major resource management exercise (assessing national resources) in order to ensure equitable development through a series of five-year plans.

What is mandate of NITI Aayog?

The monitoring and evaluation roles have been retained. New body has not been given the powers to allocate funds. The mandate to look into the interest of national security is new.

Aims and Objectives of NITI Aayog:  (as outlined in official Cabinet Resolution)

  • To provide a critical directional and strategic input into the development process.
  • It seeks to establish a genuine and continuing partnership of states in policy making.
  • Emerge as a “think-tank” that will provide Governments at the central and state levels with relevant strategic and technical advice across the spectrum.
  • Evolve a shared vision of national development priorities, and foster cooperative federalism
  • It promises better Inter-Ministry coordination and better Centre-State coordination.
  • Develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans to the village level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of government.
  • It will ensure special attention to the sections of society that may be at risk of not benefitting adequately from economic progress.
  • Create a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and partners.
  • Monitor and evaluate the implementation of programmes, and focus on technology upgradation and capacity building.
  • Focus on leveraging Demographic Dividend, Poverty Elimination (Pet theme of erstwhile planning Commission), reducing inequality, villages, small businesses & environment and ecology has been retained.
  • Dissemination of best practices from within the country as well as from other nations, the infusion of new policy ideas and specific issue-based support.

What is composition of NITI Aaayog and who are its Members?

Composition of NITI Aayog is as follows:

Chairman: Prime Minister of India

Vice-Chairperson: Mr. Arvind Pangaria

Governing Council: Chief Ministers of all the States and Lt. Governors of UT.

Regional Councils: to address specific issues and contingencies impacting more than one state or a region for a specified tenure.

How is Composition of NITI Aayog Different from Planning Commission?

As saying goes – more things change, more they remain same. Structure and Composition is more or less same as Planning Commission. Tough Governing Council’s Role would decide how far it can achieve the aim of Cooperative Federalism and Team India.

How are aim and Objective of NITI Aayog Different from Planning Commission?

How surface it seems there is little change in its aims and objectives. Apart from stripping it of formulating 5 year plans, meddling in ministries work and instructing state government, there seems to be little innovation. In actual working, we may see some innovation.

As per Minister In-charge, NITI Aayog will actively monitor and evaluate implementation of government programmes and initiatives with its focus on Concurrent, comprehensive, credible and reliable evaluation.

One Important addition to the task of Body in terms of Public Policy is – “Creating Jan Chetna” or Public Perception Management or Awareness Generation. It was quite visible in recent government initiatives be it Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojna , Swachha Bharat Abhiyan or Make In India or Beti Bachao Beti padao. It addresses one of missing point in India’s welfare and governmental programme. But it only addresses part of Problem. Other Crucial issue is Implementation and capture by vested interest.. It needs to be tacked effectively to accomplish real achievement.

What are Reasons for disbanding planning Commission and Constituting NITI Aayog?

Following Reasons have been cites in Official Resolution for Removal of Planning Commission and establishment of New Institution aka NITI Aayog

  1. Greater demand of state for their role in public policy
  2. The one-size-fits-all approach of central planning is not compatible with changed realities at national and intentional level.
  3. Planned economy (especially command and control economy) model is no longer working as anticipated and planned changes far outweigh the consequences of Technology revolution, market forces and Globalisation.
  4. New India needs an administration paradigm in which the government is an “enabler” rather than a “provider of first and last resort”.
  5. Government has to focus on enabling legislation, policy making and regulation.
  6. India needs to be an active player in the debates and deliberations on the global commons, especially in relatively uncharted areas.(How New Body would achieve this goal is not clear !)
  1. India’s pool of entrepreneurial, scientific and intellectual human capital is a source of strength -it needs to be leveraged through appropriate policy initiatives. (That was pretty much within scope and mandate of planning commission).

Does NITI Aayog address the deficiencies of Planning Commission?

  • To some extent it does. But not entirely. It’s too premature to judge at this stage , how it would address the above deficiencies of planning commission.
  • Tough it promise to adopt decentralised approach to planning but planning infrastructure and capacity is non-existent at local despite efforts of planning commission (though without sincerity and lack of political will are most crucial factor for this weak link).
  • Diagnosis of ills of Existing models of planning seems correct when it say “Development model has to become more consensual and co-operative. It must embrace the specific demands of states, regions and localities.” But how far the newly constituted body would achieve the aim is still a open question.

What NITI Aayog plans to do to achieve aims of Cooperative Federalism, Consensus based National Agenda and establishing TEAM INDIA?

  • In order to Promote Cooperative Federalism it promised to “Replacing a centre-to-state one-way flow of policy by a genuine and continuing partnership with the states.”
  • To maintain a state-of-the-art Resource Centre, be a repository of research on good governance and best practices in sustainable and equitable development as well as help their dissemination to stake-holders.
  • To actively monitor and evaluate the implementation of programmes and initiatives, including the identification of the needed resources so as to strengthen the probability of success and scope of delivery.
  • To focus on technology upgradation and capacity building for implementation of programmes and initiatives.

What Does Cabinet Resolution on NITI Aayog Says on Important Issues?

  • On Agriculture: move from pure food security to a focus on a mix of agricultural production as well as the actual returns that farmers get from their produce.
  • Villages (Gram) continue to be the bedrock of our ethos, culture and sustenance.
  • India has more than 50 million small businesses, which are a major source of employment creation.
  • But it’s silent on Human Capital, education, health and social security. Nor does it elaborate on specific sectors of economy. That is something which NITI Aayog need to outline its vision in coming days, months and years.

What are Focus Areas Outlined in Resolution?

Focus Areas outlined for New Bodies includes – Poverty elimination, Urbanisation, Agriculture, Skill Development to leverage the demographic dividend, involvement of NRI , India’s Interaction with Global institutions, Transparency in governance , Technology and Knowledge Economy.

Who has been appointment at NITI Aayog?

Former Member of Planning Commission, Arun Maira, has remarked that finding people with adequate expertise and skills to man this body would be challenge. It seems to be real issue.

Government has appointed  Shri Arvind Panagariya as vice Chairman along with full time Members Shri Bibek Debroy & Dr. V.K. Saraswat, Former Secretary Defence R&D (which shows focus on newly added area of focus of National Security).

But overall these appointments don’t inspire confidence. Body need to have much wider representation, not only restricted to the economist and retired bureaucrats, from different cross section of society. The government need to widen it’s net for selection of remaining panel and give representation to people with grassroots experience (e.g. Bankim Roy, Prof. Anil Gupta come to mind) to leveraging the diverse talent pool and not resort to importing talent from foreign universities.

What will happen to the 12th Five Year Plan? Will it be scrapped?

Speculations on the fate of 12th Five Year Plan are live as its fate would be decided by NITI Aayog in coming days.  Half of plan period is already gone but nothing substantial have happened. Even the earlier government has not paid proper attention to it with plan being approved by Parliament after almost 2 year of start. New government doesn’t seem to in mood to carry out the plan in letter and spirit though to avoid criticism it may not out rightly scrap or abandon it. Most probably it would die a slow death without anyone to take ownership or it would remain 12th player in 11 member team!  

Performance of NITI Aayog So far

Recently Prime Minister has asked the body to evolve a coordinated strategy for tribal development. The success of body to evolve a comprehensive developmental strategy for most underdeveloped areas, one of most backward groups and insurgency affected region would be crucial parameter to judge the efficacy and efficiency of new body.

Prime Minister has correctly advised NITI Aayog “to involve relevant research institutions, and eminent experts in all aspects of planning for tribal areas.”  If this advice is followed in true letter and spirit then it can set a new paradigm in India’s approach to Public Policy making. Also we need to involve the local community, civil society and common people in consultation before finalizing the policy for particular social group. It would ensure they own the policy and ensure effective implementation in their own interested.

Can NITI Aayog bring a conversance between different departments(Tribal Development, Forest, Rural Development, Health , Education etc.) & various governmental levels (Central, state , PRI and Autonomous Councils) to evolve a comprehensive strategy for tribal development ?  Can nudge from Prime Minister ensure that required impetus and focus are put into action to ensure that last mile issues are addressed to provide real benefits of growth to the most marginalised section of society?

And Final Verdict

On Broader level, Can NITI Aayog ensures that ‘Cooperative federalism’ is put into practice? Will it be able to address the issues of ‘Policy Paralysis’ & ‘Implementation deficit’ in Public Policy? Will it be able to handle the issues of monitoring, evaluation and Coordination to plug the ‘developmental deficit’? Can it serve as repository of best practice in governance and help to replicated best models of services delivery across the country? Can it serve as effective medium for knowledge sharing, exchange and capacity building across the state ruled by different political parties?  Will it be able to build the consensus on issues of Development, Welfare, National Security and International Trade?

These are some of mute questions whose answer would unfold as time progress and then people will start pouring judgement on the appropriateness or usefulness/adequacy of new architecture. Till then, NITI Aayog can enjoy its Honey Moon Period!

Reference –NITI Aayog Summary of Government released on 9th February

Independence Day : Reflections on Economy , Politics and Society


I am writing this post after about 2 years of hibernation from writing . As we are approaching another Independence Day I would like to reflect on the current status of Economy, politics and Society.

We Indian used to brag a lot about our economic performance but sky-scrapper with shaky foundations are rarely able to withstand the storms and cyclones. While Amartya Sen may have rightly project Indians as “Argumentative Indians” but he just stopped there. Just the Arguments are not enough to win the game. To use diplomatic parlance, you may win many arguments in room but that doesn’t ensure victory in game. To win the game, you need to have a clear vision , know your strength and shortcoming and use the strategy to achieve your full potentials while exploiting the vulnerability of opponents. To cut short, implementation is key in winning the game. This is where we fail miserably.

Tough some people have rightly identified the implementation gap and are working to bridge the same. “Ib-In” or India Backbone Implementation Network is case in point

On economic management India is classic example of “To kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs“. While India was struggling to climb the stairs of growth the ‘coteries of crony capitalism’ disguised as voteries of inclusive growth killed the Goose in search of a Golden Egg. They advocated re-distribution giving a scant regard to sustainable revenue generation or growth.  While they may advocate that  programmes like MNREGA has doubled/tripled/quadrupled the wages for Rural and Urban Manual laborer for whom only source of subsistence is their wage and this has actually led to inclusive growth. what they ignore is productivity increase of Economy which has actually declined in recent years  indicating loss of competitiveness in Economy. This is hindering the growth of India as a manufacturing hub , which can create large employment opportunities to effectively leverage the Demographic dividend, at a time when MNCs are looking to diversify their manufacturing base as china is becoming costly. To grow at a rate that pulls more people out of poverty, India needs to invest more, create more non-farm jobs or manufacturing jobs . but who cares about growth as long as they are able to grow their personal empire  classic example being crony capitalism witnessed in series of scams from 2G , Mining, Commonwaelth , Sarkari Damaad & list goes on….  A very good technical analysis or procedural details on working of crony capitalism can be found in Sarkari Damaad case aka Rober Vadra land deal case.

This loot of national resources will go unhindered as long as public doesn’t understand or care about their rights and duties and continue to think on basis of their own short term interest /benefits /advantages (by demanding reservation/ subsidy /allowances) rather than keeping public interest(which would includes demanding governance, basic infrastructure, accountability from public officials including politicians and bureaucrats) in mind. As in case of change of presidentship from George W Bush to Barack Obama has demonstrated, behind much of the chest-thumping of politicians, there usually lies a continuity of policy between different administrations.” This is where the vigilant , conscious public & citizenry come into picture. We have every right to know the vision and strategy of our political leaders which includes government as well as opposition. In this hyper-informative digital world we can hardly remain aloof from Public affairs , but consciousnesses of public affairs also bring with its own set of views, prejudices and biases. But we can greatly overcome the shortcoming of these biases and prejudices if we make a conscious efforts to make us aware about them. As rightly & timely inquired by one sympathizer of Mr. Narendra Modi in a column in newspaper, we need to ask tough question from our politicians rather than believing in spin given by their sympathizers . This is kind of vigilance we required to make politician accountable to general public. While many present their views through columns as done by one of MP in today’s paper on foreign policy but nuanced , critical public discourses on issues of relevance are largely missing from Indian Public life.

On the social front we have witnessed huge churning happening in last year which included mobilization on the issues of corruption, anti-rap protest. but we are yet to see any impact of these mobilization on actual social life. while reporting of corruption & rape cases may have gone up temporarily but we are hardly seeing any change of heart in general public or increased morality in public life. We have scant regard of sensibility of others. we are not used to think critically during our socialization process whether it is at home or in school and society.Only a enduring, sustained long term efforts on the parts of public to create awareness accompanied by institutional change can bring a societal transformation.

India is society of confrontation and conflict. There are ideological, political, religious, regional and caste based division present at every moment in every hook and corner of country ample evidence of which we see in form of communal violence(whether it is in J&K, UP or Assam), political blame-game( on transferring of bureaucrats to who is writing the speech ) , Caste rivalries or honour killing which are just another manifestation of existing wide gulf in different castes  in society, Regional movements for creation of new state of Telenagana, Gorkhaland , Bodoland & half a dozen others. This list is unending and ever expanding.

In spite of these division , conflict and confrontation, what had united the people living from Kashmir to Kanyakumari , Silchar to Porbander – this is Idea India and belief of people in this Idea of India. Some discomfort and struggle makes us comfortable & tough, removing every discomfort make the species fragile. e.g. extreme hygiene , by destroying the body’s natural ability to fight with germs and adapt to environment , we become vulnerable. we counter it by ingesting probiotics , the good ‘dirt’ that we denied the body in first place. Similarly we can’t just wished away from reality and live in a Utopian world but we can achieve a true Independence for India only if  the “common problems of India” could become “common concern for all”. This will create shared sense of understanding and give all of us a stake in progress of nation . only then we can prosper, develop and realize the true independence, independence from our ignorance, our hatredness towards other, independence from our parochial thinking , independence from dogmas, independence from bad habits and above all independence of mind.

Jai Hind Jai Bharat.

Independence Day – Time for Introspect


Today we will be celebrating 65th Independence Day. Most of us will be greeting each other with message of “Happy Independence day “ but actually many are not happy with present situation of country. Governance is in state of disarray, no measure development work is being undertaken and above all Inflation has made life measurable for million of common man (Aam Aadmi).

The increased awakening about prevalent corruption in political and administrative system has created a feeling of self- guilty among many elites and middle class. Magnitude of loot by politicians and their cronies has increased many folded in recent past or may be earlier general public was not being able to track such huge loots.

Inflation, corruption, black money, poor Governance has made life a miserable affair for both Aam Aadmi and Khas Aadmi. Aam Admi has been at receiving end in form of inflation & poor governance. The growing frustration with government and administration was channelized in form of protest, Candle Marches & heated TV Debates. The public support for Anna Hazare & Baba Ramdev is case in point. The successful mobilization of public anger & judicial activism has been able to make troubles for Khas Aadmi. This has created a state of panic among cronies (or Khas Aadmi). First times in independent India, the khas aadmi, were competing with each other for a birth in EXECUTIVE SUITE of TIHAR ASHARAM. Others also started to realize that their turn may be next. Suddenly the TIHAR ASHARAM becomes the hot destination for the Business honchos & political mavericks. The public anger and judicial activism was being able to put VIP (Khas Aadmi) behind the bars for time being. But it seems all is not well with this approach. It has been creating anarchy like situation than a ideal democratic state. People are being made scapegoats & real beneficiaries are still outside the Net. This all is just a stop gap arrangement rather than systematic reforms to address the root reasons for corruption.

All said , what can we do to improve this situation ? what can be our role in Nation Building ?

We, Citizens of country, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and region needs to adopt following things in habit in order to make India a better place to live:

1. Recognize responsibility as citizens before demanding any rights

2. Criticize but don’t blame – Be a constructive critic – propose the solution

3. Be vocal – express opinions freely without considering the political correctness

4. We have to be proactive not reactive if we want a prosperous nation in next 10 years

5. Be empathetic not sympathetic with underprivileged

6. Society is made up of individuals so don’t just blame others for wrong things happening in society. Accept the fact that we are part and parcel of problem.

7. Need to re-look and introspect “Chalta hai attitude”

8. Give preference to merit over connection/acquaints

9. Rational before emotion in decision making (day to day or political decision or Business decisions)

10. Be part of process of change

We as a nation need to introduce the following systematic reforms with urgency to ensure a prosperous future for our next generation:

1. Transparency in government decision making

– What is need of RTI if process itself is transparent?

– What is need of Ombudsman (or Lokpal) if big contracts are made in transparent manner and arbitrary discretion power to Ministers or Senior Officials are removed

Technology can be a leading factor in bringing transparency in government system.

2. Education reform – not just passing Right to Education bill – Need for Quality

Education is backbone of any society. We need quality education with universal access. Education creates the opportunity. it is the greatest equaliser for income disparity.

3. Focus on Basics

– More people have died in Rail Accidents than the terror strikes in current year. Yes we may not be able to stop all terror attack but can we stop every single rail accident?

4. Revival of Agriculture:

The One very important and crucial segment of our populations is Kisans. They provide the food to eat. Both these segments have been ignored by the leaders of country and the representative class. Farmer’s constituent more than 50 % of our population. We set the target of Agriculture growth to be 4 % while the overall growth target is in double digit. This way we are systematically creating a gap between Rich & Poor. This could be in future utilised by same political class for electoral gains as seen in case of Garibi Hatao & Inclusive growth slogans. Only few states like Gujrat have been able to put agricultural growth on par with overall growth rate. No fresh investment has been made in the agriculture sector. Even the irrigation projects are also put aside. There is an urgent need for second Green Revolution or “EVERGREEN” Revolution with increased focus on productivity with no harm to ecology.

5. Address the leadership vacuum

Leaders are called leaders because they are supposed to provide much needed direction and leadership to masses. “If leaders fail to lead, their followers will take over the leadership and lead instead.” It seems to perfectly suits in current situation of India. Political class has failed to provide the needed leadership to carry the country forward. There is need for youth who can provide the much needed leadership in this process of development. The emergence of a vocal and assertive voice against the political elite (dynasty) is essential for healthy democracy.

We need to avoid falling in trap of fake leaders. There is need for independent thinking for every individual before accepting anyone as our leader. We, the youth of Country, have stake in future and needs to take active involvement in day to day happening and take leadership roles otherwise usual cronies will continue to rule the country.

We always focus on problems without proposing any solution. I have tried to propose one solution for ending or reducing the corruption in public life.

Problem

– The main source of Corruption is political

– Politics have become a family business (irrespective of party line except a few)

– Big Mullah are spend on election – No retail contribution here only wholesale ( So you don’t have any right to ask for detailed funding and cost of political party as you rarely contribute )

Solution – Individual contribution from able citizens and Supporters

Why this will bring down corruption

1. Stakeholders will demand more transparency as their money is involved

2. Politicians will no longer be able to give silly arguments like money is needed to fight the next election

3. Capable, Honest candidates (without financial capability) will also be able to come to parliament

4. As a stakeholder we can ensure that our interest are protected – Concerned issues are raised by our party (No rant of serving only corporate India)

5. Last but not the least sense of participation will awaken the ordinary men making him more honest in day to day conduct.

All is not well with our country but this everything is also not bad. Growing anger and different voices are sign of change and its upon our hand to decide the future. Whether we are happy with status-quo or we want a better India- Its upon us to decide and make that happen.

We need to realize our potential and there is a big opportunity to make this nation a ideal place to live.

Jai Hind Jai Bharat!!!

Gandhi’s vision


On the independence night I was watching Movie  “Gandhi”.Few lines which was quoted by character of Gandhi in a Indian National Congress meeting caught my attention and touched the heart.I wondered How much has changes after the 62 years of Independence. “I have been travelling to India for last few months and I know that I can spend still years to know the India. yet I already know that what we say means nothing to masses of country. Here we make speeches for each other and those English liberal magazine may grant us few lines.The people of India are untouched. Their politics is confined to bread and salt.Illiterate they may be but they are not blind.They see no reason to give their loyalty to Rich and Powerful man,who simply want to take over the role of British in the name of freedom.This congress tells the world-it represent the India.My brothers India is 7 hundred thousands villages NOT a few hundred lawyers in Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta.Until we stand in few in the millions who spoil each day under the hot sun we will not represent the India.We will not represent the India .No one will ever be challenge the British as one nation.” Continue reading

Evergreen Economy


Green economy by definition is sustainable .That means it can’t manifest a structural commitment to “growth”. But the Green economy which is taking shape today is not so green in its nature. The present form of Green Economy is just a feel-good catchphrase rather than reality. We need to think beyond the so called ‘green’ which has today become a fashionable and thing of luxury. For that we need to think about the Sustainable economy which can exist with harmony in nature. To do so we need to give the priority to environment over the economy. Evergreen economy is based on the motto- "The ultimate aim is sustainable human happiness."For that we need to move beyond the consumer-centric approach to the economy and development.

Some common questions which come to our mind when we think about creating green economy are: Is it feasible? Can development accommodate ecology? Can green economy be affordable to everyone or is it a thing for only affluent? Can green economy provide enough production for consumption? Will this means compromising with life-style? I have tries to answer these common questions.